Kissing game sets him spinning

Published 9:52 am Wednesday, July 14, 2010

“The past comes upon you like smoke on the air. You can smell it and find yourself gone. To a place that you lived without worry or care. Isn’t that where we all once came from…” sings Mary Chapin Carpenter in her song, “The Age of Miracles.”

That describes what happened when I got a message the other day from, Chuck, an old friend. He was in a band when we were in high school.

That band is what I recalled as I read the message, but later, a funny thing happened.

Sitting quietly, at my window smoke from the past came upon me and I was gone into another memory involving Chuck, one that stirred unexpected feelings.

I was in maybe sixth grade at one of the first boy/girl parties of my youth. A large group gathered at Freddie’s house that night and just after dark someone suggested a game of spin the bottle. Being almost teenagers who wanted to be teenagers, we quickly agreed, settling ourselves into a circle.

Someone put a Coke bottle in the center and gave it a spin. The group held its collective breath waiting to see where it pointed when it stopped. It landed on the first person, and got another whirl to pick his or her partner.

Then the couple took off together around the dark house. They walked back into the light to grins from those waiting for a turn. So, the game progressed, bottle spinning, couples walking, sometimes returning holding hands, which got giggles from the rest of us.

Finally, the bottle pointed to me. Someone gave it another twirl and it landed on Chuck, his first time too. We looked at each other and started for the corner of the house.

Then just as we headed into the dark, Chuck took off running, leaving me staring into the blackness. I wasn’t sure what to do. Should go back to the circle or stand there and hope he’d return?

I walked into the night, making the trip around the house by myself. When I came back into the light of the carport, Chuck sat in his place and no one said anything.

That was more than 40 years ago but how I felt that night is still there when I remember the girl standing alone in the darkness wondering what to do. Sitting with those feelings whirling around me like smoke on the air, I took a deep breath, and in my mind I wrapped my arms around the me of long ago, and walked with her whispering softly in her ear.

“It’s going to turn out fine for you. Chuck, like you, is a kid who feels awkward, shy, and doesn’t know quite what to do either so don’t take it personally. On a sunny summer morning, just a few days before your 58th birthday, you will remember this night and smile.”

And today I am smiling because, like other stirrings from the past, that spin the bottle game is a memory from a place I once lived without the worry or care and indeed everything turned out better than fine for me.